The Vancouver Whitecaps managed a 1-1 draw with the high flying Colorado Rapids. The game served to effectively highlight both Vancouver’s strengths and their weaknesses.
The Whitecaps came out with yet another slow start. The Whitecaps struggled to build out of the back and rarely made it into Colorado’s half. The job of progressing the ball was usually delegated to the centre-backs, something that has been a problem for the Whitecaps over the past three seasons. The midfield duo of Russell Teibert and Janio Bikel completed only a single forwards pass in the entire first half (circled in the diagram below).
Colorado peppered the Vancouver goal with long-range efforts while Vancouver struggled to make anything positive happen. Colorado took an eminently predictable lead in the 27th minute through a Danny Wilson header. At this point, Vancouver hadn’t even generated a shot.
But with 10 minutes to go in the half the ‘Caps started to make things happen, mostly through Deiber Caicedo. Caicedo was involved in most of Vancouver’s dangerous moves, the most noteworthy of which was a through ball to Brian White who smashed the ball in off the underside of the crossbar and tie the game at 1-1. White is now up to five goals on the season, four of which have come in the last six games.
In the 60th minute, Vanni Sartini made some of his classic in-game adjustments, bringing on Cavallini and Baldisimo for Caicedo and Bikel. But the overall dynamics of the game stayed the same. Colorado peppered Vancouver’s goal with long-range efforts while the Whitecaps got the occasional big chance. Lucas Cavallini missed a comical chance (it’s not entirely clear he was trying to shoot) but the fact he managed 3 shots in 35 minutes of play does bode well for his potential link-up with Ryan Gauld.
Colorado did manage one big chance, with the final kick of the game, but Maxime Crepeau was well positioned to deny Kellyn Acosta from close range.
This game was a microcosm of the early Ryan Gauld era. The Whitecaps still have many of the same flaws they did before the arrival of their DP #10 but now they have enough attacking talent to paper over some of those deficiencies. They may not be well organized or skilled enough to build out of the back coherently but the few times they make it into the opposition 3rd something good is probably going to happen. The ‘Caps got outshot 23-9 in this game but the xG was only 1.9-1.3. This underscores the fact that the Whitecaps were rarely in control but their few moments were pretty good.
This state of affairs is both frustrating and exciting. Frustrating because it shows that the ‘Caps aren’t at the level of a top MLS team yet. But it’s exciting because, despite their numerous and obvious flaws, they’re still shockingly effective. If they can fix some of those flaws then next year could be a lot of fun. But this year is probably going to be a sort of weird half-life.
Next up is F.C Dallas on Saturday.